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U.S. Spying Update: Europe Fumes And Protesters Rally In D.C.

By Bill Chappell on October 26th, 2013

Anger, distrust and possible punishments are the defining themes of Europe’s reaction to news that a U.S. spy agency monitored the phone calls of millions of European citizens and some world leaders. The details are the latest to emerge from leaks attributed to former National Security Agency contract worker Edward Snowden.

Members of the European Parliament will be in Washington on Monday to discuss recent reports by The Guardian that the NSA used U.S. officials’ Rolodexes to create lists of phone numbers to monitor. Intelligence officials will make a separate visit from Germany, whose Chancellor Angela Merkel was reportedly targeted for surveillance.

From Brussels, Teri Schultz reports for our Newscast unit:

“After months of muted EU reaction to reports the NSA was surveilling millions of private Europeans, the alleged tapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal phone seems to have been the last straw.

“A delegation of European parliamentarians will take up the issue with the U.S. government Monday. German and French intelligence officials will be going there soon and may scale back security cooperation.

“The European Parliament has already passed a non-binding resolution to suspend a bank data-sharing agreement with the U.S. and passed a package of laws that would strengthen data and privacy protections in the EU. But many members of Parliament say that’s not enough, and are calling for talks on an EU-US free trade area to be frozen until Europe gets answers.”

In Washington, the ACLU and other rights groups are holding a rally Saturday called Stop Watching Us — video of which is being live-streamed. In the rally that coincides with the 16th anniversary of the signing of the Patriot Act, protesters are gathering to deliver a petition to Congress that organizers say was signed by more than 580,000 people, calling for transparency and accountability in U.S. surveillance. Its supporters also include Edward Snowden.

Here’s a roundup of reactions and fallout from the news:

“We need something clear-cut that is also in line with the spirit of an alliance,” Merkel said of the need to create “a framework for further cooperation” between the U.S. and its European allies, according to The Washington Post.

“There has been damage here,” former U.S. assistant secretary of state for public affairs P.J. Crowley tells NPR’s Scott Simon on Weekend Edition. “Obviously, deep disappointment and skepticism about U.S. actions and U.S. intentions — not unlike what we experienced 10 years ago, with Iraq.”

“The magnitude of the eavesdropping is what shocked us,” former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in a radio interview, according to the AP. “Let’s be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else. But we don’t have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous.”

Although the U.S. collects “the same sort of intelligence as all nations, our intelligence community has more restrictions and oversight than in any other country in history,” says the Obama administration’s Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, in USA Today.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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